War in Israel

  • January 23, 2017 | JUDGES 20:1–48
Devotions
After the genocide, the Rwandan justice system used community courts known as Gacaca to try hundreds of thousands of genocide suspects. These courts were convened in local villages with judges elected from the local communities. Some two million people went through the Gacaca court system, and 65 percent were convicted.

Judges 20 opens with all Israel from Dan to Beersheba (north to south) convened at Mizpah. They requested the testimony of the Levite, who self- servingly shaved some details from his story. He did not mention, for example, his marital troubles; he did not mention the threats of sodomy at Gibeah; he conveniently omitted his decision to do nothing to protect his concubine from rape and abuse; and finally, he accused the men of Gibeah of a “lewd and outrageous act” without acknowledging his own lack of outrage or involvement at the scene of the crime (vv. 4–6).

In fact, the text is ambiguous about whether the men of Gibeah actually killed the woman, or if she died from her injuries, or if the Levite himself killed her.

In response to the treachery of Gibeah, Israel assembled what looks like a national army. In any other circumstance, the collective response might have been a hopeful sign of regaining political unity, but sadly now Israel was mobilizing troops against their own brothers (vv. 10–11). Moreover, the eventual victory of the Israelites over the Benjamites can hardly be called a victory. Tens of thousands of Israelite soldiers were dead when the battle ended, and the tribe of Benjamin was nearly entirely wiped out.

In a sad, ironic coda of failure, the tribe of Benjamin is treated the way that Israel was supposed to treat the Canaanites: their villages are razed and their human population decimated.

Apply the Word

We rightly think that murder is terrible, but what about telling half-truths to get out of a jam? Idol- worship is clearly a sin—but what about seeking to cut corners to maximize our own profits? Judges reminds us that when we rationalize sins we think are small, we set our course for destruction. How much better to choose God’s path of righteousness!

BY Jennifer Michel

Jen Pollock Michel is a regular contributor for Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics. Her first book, Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith, is published by InterVarsity Press. Jen earned her BA in French from Wheaton College and her MA in Literature from Northwestern University. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and five children, and serves on staff at Grace Toronto Church. You can follow Jen on Twitter @jenpmichel or you can find her at jenpollockmichel.com.

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